Monday 12 April 2010


I don't usually do these sorts of blog posts, worrying that they'll turn into the stereotype of blogging which I never actually see in book blog circles, but which hover on the horizon of my mind like a cautionary tale (y'know, the 'why does nobody sit next to me on the bus?' type blogs)... but I've seen quite a few posts about blogging recently, like Eva's and Simon S's and I thought maybe you'd indulge me, just one time...

Eva started off her (very lovely and affirming) post by mentioning that quite a few bloggers have decided to stop blogging of late. I hadn't actually noticed this, perhaps because none of my favourite bloggers *have* decided to do this, but I'm sad to hear it. It's a funny old world, this blogosphere, and I certainly went through a stage where I couldn't really think of anything to write, and did it partly out of obligation... but that was a long time ago now, and thankfully I'm enjoying it as much as ever now! I think I'm enjoying it mostly because I've realised there is no pressure for me to make my blog anything other than what I feel like it being. I don't have to review all the latest books, I don't have to accept all the review copies that I'm offered, I don't have to post everyday if I'm too sleepy - and also I can write about funny little books that nobody else will know about, or even want to know about, because *starts singing tunelessly* "it's my blog and I'll cry if I want to!" No, wait, that's the wrong message...

I suppose every blogger has moments of thinking 'why is that blog more popular than mine?' or 'why did I get no comments on that post?' - it's just a side-effect of putting yourself out on a stage of any variety, and waiting to see what people's response is. I happen to think that the people who read this blog are the nicest people in the whole wide world, so I've been very fortunate in that respect - it's only occasional that I try to look at my blog with an objective eye, and wonder... 'is it looking a bit tired?' or 'Am I the only person who hasn't moved to Wordpress?!' I try and change things around every now and then, but let's face it... I'm old!

Yes, my third birthday party seems to be akin to a 80th in terms of blogging. I try to keep up, but my joints just don't work like they used to... just kidding, of course, but I do feel a bit of an old-timer around the blogosphere now. Which is lovely in one way, but rather odd in another. I see all these wonderful blogs start up, make those hesitant first posts, then find their voice, and then get dozens of comments on all their posts and write the most wonderful reviews - aren't I sounding more and more like a great-grandparent every moment?

I'm not even sure where this blog post is heading, and I'm sure it isn't coherent. I suppose I want to say how much I enjoy blogging, how many wonderful people I've met (either in person or virtually), how many wonderful books I've found out about, and how great in general the experience has been. And is continuing to be, don't worry, I'm not stopping! But I also wanted to see if other people find the whole thing a little odd sometimes, and a little self-exposing... bloggers are often shy people, and sometimes it does feel out of character to put oneself 'out there' for anyone to read, and then wait to see who *does* read it...

Someone asked me at the Sceptre event whether I was 'ambitious' for my blog. And my instinctive answer was a definite 'no'. I don't want it to be my whole life, I don't even want it to dictate my whole reading life - I've found my level, my niche, my lovely readership and I'm happy to stay where I am. But someone else there also said that it must be a lonely experience - and it really is the opposite of that. I've met more like-minded people through blogging than I could ever have imagined, and hopefully you're like-minded enough not to mind this sort of splurgy-post... promise it won't happen again! But I would be interested to hear your feedback on any or all of it, if you can make head or tail of what I've been trying to say...

Yes, this shouldn't just be a ramble. I'd love to know:
  • Your experiences with blogging - do you go through peaks and troughs of enthusiasm?
  • Does the stuff I've written strike a chord?
  • Do you secretly wonder why your stats fluctuate, and what's affecting them??
  • More positively - what's your favourite thing about blogging?
  • And... what's your favourite woodland creature ;-)

Take care, folks, and thanks again for making the blogging experience so great - often quite unexpected and surreal, but definitely great.


  1. I've been curious about these postings as well, and as I said in a recent interview, I think too many bloggers have gotten sidetracked from their original purpose. There are a ton of fads and features that if I succumbed to each of them, I too would be overwhelmed with the "must dos" of this supposed enjoyable hobby. I do check my stats and am humbled by the number of hits I receive, but I hope to never employ gimmicks just for numbers. I started my blog for me, and I hope that it will always remain that way. Now, if it started to earn a living for me...

    And, my favorite woodland creature is of course the snipe. ;-)

  2. I've only just started a weblog and I have no worries at all about posting every day, or indeed every week. I have no idea at all if anybody reads/looks at it as I have no statistics and currently do not enable any comments. I'm not really a shy person so I am not too worried about being "out there", however you will note I use a pseudonym in weblog comments and also on my own weblog. I do wish to appear under a variety of personae I guess. I'm sure that 99% of your readers fit the description of the nicest people in the whole wide world but please take care if you include me in that category. I have my positive aspects, but I don't think I'm particularly nice!

    My favourite thing about posting on my weblog? Well it's the self-indulgence of course!

    Favourite woodland creature is the red squirrel.

    The blackest cat

  3. I'm so glad you posted this; you bring up some issues I have been thinking about. I veer from thinking that blogging is ultimately freeing, and not caring what people think, to obsessively checking how many followers I have several times a day. At its best, writing on my blog allows me to practice a craft (writing), and connect with like-minded book lovers. But craving comments, or followers, can have a negative effect on that freeing flow of expression. I'm not writing *only* for myself, but I'm also not (I hope) writing for the false reward of approval. Good topic and interesting post (do not construe this as the false reward of approval!).

  4. I very easily lose a train of thought; my favorite thing about blogging is that I now have a reason to clarify and give words to my thoughts about whatever it is that I'm reading. And I love owls.

  5. I was genuinely thinking of giving up two weeks ago for lots of reasons, my enthusiasm was low, I have noticed some bitching and competition (I believe authors, other bloggers and publishers have spotted this of late from some conversations I have had) and I haven't time for all that to be honest, I do my blog for fun and mainly as a diary for me, the people I have met etc has all been rather wonderful bonuses.

    Do I care about stats? No not really, I had a phase where I got rather over excited about it when they went up etc there was a definate thrill but selfishly I blog for me and despite the odd wobble of late thats the way it will stay lol. Great post Simon, its been a joy to meet you online and in person.

    Oh and I like foxes, I cans ee some urban ones when I have my breakfast!

  6. I don't write a blog of my own, I just soak up some of the best from those who do, and throw in the occasional comment. Just as when we read a book we play a part in the creative process, conjouring up in our minds an array of images and impressions suggested by the author, a successful blog is also a collaborative process that often owes almost as much to those who comment as to it's original creator. There's little point talking if nobody is listening, although I appreciate it can be useful to put one's thoughts down in writing regardless of whether or not they are read.

    As a commenter rather than a fully fledged blogger, I still feel part of what seems a positive and warm community. I simply try to avoid those meaner virtual streets where one might be at risk of a virtual mugging. Incidentally, if being accosted in the high street to set up a direct debit to a charity is "chugging". Would a virtual mugging on a blog be best described as a "blugging"?

    Before I cease wittering, can I also add another vote for the red squirrel as favourite wild creature? One of the highlights of my year so far was seeing two of them at Formby, a rare sight these days since the red squirrel population there was recently hit by the pox. Do you think I need to get out more?

  7. I've been blogging for about six months now, and my blog has gotten a lot more attention early on than I thought it would ever. That being said, I do sometimes get caught up in the stats. Why did I only get 50 hits today when I usually get 100? And so on. But I try not take it too seriously, and I won't post something if I don't feel like. Vlogs are a lot of work and although I'd like to do them once a week, between work and school sometimes there just isn't enough time. I think that is where a lot of bloggers get caught up and start to quit. They just take it too seriously, or maybe other people take them too seriously and then they feel like they have to commit. I love blogging though, and it's fun now, but I say once the fun is gone there's no reason to kill yourself over it.

    Can an owl qualify as a woodland creature? I say it can.

  8. All the talk of burnout and annoyance that I've seen around the blogosphere makes me sad. I think you've hit on the key to avoiding it when you say "there is no pressure for me to make my blog anything other than what I feel like it being." Sure, I wonder sometimes why certain posts get tons of comments and others don't. But then I remember that I don't always comment on every post that interests me, perhaps because I have nothing to add or because I'm short on time that week.

    And the people I've "met" online have been such a gift to me. I love to talk about books, and it's great to find people who don't get bored with book talk. And I love how blogging has made me a more thoughtful reader. Reflecting on my reading so I can write about it makes the reading stick in a way it hadn't for me since I was in school.

  9. Oh, and my favorite woodland creature is a squirrel, mostly because of the entertainment they give my cat when they race around in the tree by my window!

  10. Funny you should ask, because a few weeks ago I has a major crisis of confidence and I was just one click away from deleting my blog.

    But then I remembered one or two things that I didn't want to lose, had a bit of a rethink and remembered why I started this in the first place. To write about books and fix them more firmly in my memory.

    So I try to not worry too much about what anybody else is doing,read as the mood strikes, follow a small selection of blogs I enjoy (and that's why I'm here now), discover more books, and not worry about the nonsense.

    And my favourite woodland creature has to be a squirrel.

  11. I'm still very new to book blogging (it hasn't even been three months yet), so I retain all the annoying eagerness of the typical newcomer. My blogging identity is newly formed and still evolving and, frankly, that can be a little confusing at times but it's still exciting. And yes, I obsessively check my stats and yes, I may allow myself a little cheer every single time I get a comment. Maybe that will wear off eventually, but it's fun right now and thrilling because it means that there are people out there who are actually interested in what I have to say. After years of boring family and friends with my many attempts to talk about the books I was reading, it's amazing to find such an open and active forum to house these discussions.

    Like apparently the vast majority of bloggers, I love the squirrel. Admittedly, my familiarity with the squirrel is with the over-fed, trash-bin dwelling, window-screen chewing kind that thrives in University towns and not the woodland variety, but I still adore them. I think that all of this probably stems from a passion for the cartoon squirrels in Disney's Sleeping Beauty.

  12. Ah, Simon, you are a gem. Some of the navel-gazing posts of late have made quite negative reading and the complaining has been quite disheartening. We all have our moments of low enthusiasm, lack of inspiration and ... a sense of entitlement at times? However, you have brought it back to the great things about blogging and remind me of some of the reasons why I do it. Thank you.

    I have grown very partial to both squirrels and foxes, the urban woodland creature, since moving to London.

  13. I've certainly felt the blogging enthusiasm ebb lately. It's bound to happen with any pursuit, isn't it? We can't give it the same amount of attention and love forever. So, as long as we remember what our purpose was in starting our own space, it should carry us through until the energy returns.

    I am partial to any woodland creature that I happen to see or hear on that day -- today it was a deer and a bluejay.

  14. I dont think you were incoherent - what you said makes perfect sense because apart from being book bloggers, we are also rational (I hope) human beings who would I feel be sad if no one comes to our blog, no one comments and we have no blogging friends. I like your post very much even if its not very book bloggy but its very relevant and I am so glad you did. I dont actually count the hits as I am a very new blogger, but I appreciate very much when someone takes the trouble to comment.

  15. I agree with PBK Claire; there has been a lot of depressing navel gazing, but I feel there is little point doing blogging really unless it is for oneself!

  16. Very interesting post, Simon. I have gone through some soul searching, too -- I used to feel really bad if I didn't post, if not every day, at least several times a week, but now I think I am more relaxed about it and don't mind letting it slide for a while. I rarely check statistics but when I do I am always rather surprised as there are many more visits than comments. Of course I wonder why other people have more visitors -- being human, as Mystica says -- but the people who are regular readers, whether I have met them or not, have really become good friends, and I do enjoy the process of getting my thoughts in order and out there.
    My favorite woodland creature is a fox, I think, as I have a very splendid one who appears from time to time in my garden.

  17. I started my blog this past January because I felt an urgent need to write. I felt words inside me that had to come out. Everyone says "write what you know" and I am a book lover so I started Ordinary Reader where I could talk about the books I'm reading. I get ridiculously happy when the counter lets me know someone has been there to read what I had to say. And when someone decides to follow my blog I feel like I've been given a great gift. Every comment is a thrill. Maybe the novelty will wear off with time, but I hope not. My favorite parts of blogging are the opportunity to write, which I am loving, the way that knowing I'll be writing about it makes me a better reader, and the contact I get with people I've never met but with home I share a love of reading. Favorite woodland animal is definitely a deer.

  18. I think some bloggers have too much time on their hands to be honest!

    I love blogging because it's something I do just for me and it allows me to keep a track of my reading whilst practising my neglected first love, writing. Having people read my blog and getting comments and forming friendships with likeminded people is wonderful and I absolutely love it when people take the time to read what I write, but I would still blog regardless of that. I don't get obsessed about stats or comments - there's no point. I didn't even know stats existed until I moved to wordpress!

    Blogging is, for me, a very small part of my far too busy life and frankly I can't be bothered to get stressed about it - I've got enough stress in my life as it is! I enjoy writing my blog and that's all that matters - anything else is a happy bonus. We're all far too status obsessed as a society and it is very easy to become sucked into a mentality of wanting to be popular and competitive, but for me, blogging is just a pleasurable hobby, and I want to keep it that way. I have no interest in making my blog into a marketing tool, either for myself, or for anyone else.

    I look for genuine passion and a sense of the blogger's personality and heart in a blog, and bloggers who are focussed on stats and popularity have neither of those for me. Thankfully Simon, yours has never been like that at all, and it has always been, as long as I've been reading it (way before I started my own blog, actually), a true reflection of your interests and personality. That's why I enjoy reading it, and long may it continue!

    Favourite woodland creature - hedgehog. Looks cute, is covered in spikes, can curl up in a ball. What's not to like?

  19. I agree with Rachel - I blog for myself. I do sometimes get frustrated with myself that I don't have more time to write posts, or read other people's blogs but that's because I am balancing this with lots of other things. I keep telling myself I will post more often but it rarely happens!
    I enjoy the blogs that I read and am always astounded at how many books everyone manages to read and write about!
    It's a great way of meeting new people and also for finding out about books that I may have otherwise overlooked.
    I love writing so that's why I do it.
    My favourite woodland creature is the badger.

  20. I don't blog myself but I *love* reading other people's. My "to read" list is now about a mile long as a result. And my favourite woodland creature is the dormouse.

  21. I'm one of those who feel like closing my blog. Not because I feel pressured by blogging itself but because I feel stressed about reading other blogs. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE reading blogs, but ever since I got a job, I have had less time to devote online (I started my blog jobless), plus the number of blogs I read have grown out of proportion. So say I give myself about an hour a day to read blogs (and comment), I end up doing it about 3 to 5 hours instead! And then it leaves me no time to read my books anymore. The irony. So that is why. And then to be able to read, I start leaving off some chores, but then clutter stresses me out. It's a cycle. The past couple of weeks I've been mulling it over. I think maybe for awhile I'll continue but not sure in the long run. My husband says don't stop, just blog and stop feeling guilty if you can't read all the other blogs. But I do feel guilty if I can't stop by everyone's blogs, and I do feel it's quite useless to keep on blogging if you're not able to contribute and join in the book blogging community, so there. So sorry for the rambling, but I'm SO glad you're still here and that you aren't going anywhere because I LOVE your blog.

    Fave woodland creatures: owls and foxes.

  22. Just thought I'd jump in again and say I totally agree with Claire - I feel pressured as well by having to 'keep up' - I feel bad if I don't visit and comment on the blogs of people who visit mine, but often my google reader is at 100 and I am just skimming posts to get rid of them in my reader and it makes me feel overwhelmed. I work full time and I just don't have the leisure time to sit and read posts for hours. But at the same time I want to contribute to the community and support other bloggers. It's tricky and finding the right balance without feeling guilty is hard.

  23. I never feel "ambitious" for my blog at all - I like writing about what I read, because then I don't forget what I've liked and not liked. And I love the book blogging community. As I've discovered more and more blogs (and more have been created), I know I've gotten less reliable about commenting on some of my favorite ones, and that does bother me. I'm trying a new, ruthlessly hierarchical structure in my Google Reader, so that I first read the blogs I'm most likely to comment on. It's ruthless! I feel a bit guilty about that. :( But mostly, the fun in blogging is definitely still there for me, chatting with book bloggy friends and getting recommendations of what to read next.

  24. Love this post! I refuse to look at blog stats because I'm afraid they would make me even more introspective than I already am.


  25. I think the fact that we keep reading each others' blogs whether we comment or not shows how much we enjoy them. We all have busy lives and sometimes it's hard to find the time to write posts and comments, but it definitely brightens up my day when I read about someone discovering a new book or just prattling on about things they enjoy (in a good way, of course!)

    I've always been a city girl so don't know enough woodland creatures. Must remedy that.

  26. I love reading the comments on these posts, they really get me thinking. My favourite woodland animal is probably a Badger. After years of staring at customer flows and sales charts I love seeing what my blog stats are, but when all's said and done I would carry on even if no one but myself was looking at it, though I'd be cross with my mum if she stopped...

    I too started blogging when I was unemployed and am now juggling it with full time work, but my job doesn't really demand much thought so the blog is probably more important to me now than before. It started because I was reading more and needed somewhere I could explore book thoughts at greater length than seemed sociable in my online book group or with friends who hadn't read them.
    Blogging has bought me lots of unexpected benifits in the way of new ideas, people, and reading suggestions - all things I want to continue so I suppose in that way I am ambitious for it. I'm not as involved as many of you in the general blogging community so I've missed the bitching and competition that Simon S talks about, but I find one of the great things about the internet is that it's easy to ignore that kind of thing.

    Life changes and maybe I will get to the point when I've had enough but so far it's all been good and I can see this going on for a while.

    I love your blog Simon, and hope that I'll be reading your thoughts in one form or another for very many years to come

  27. I think there are too many blogs. Some are utterly glorious and life enhancing - like yours, Simon, and I recognize some of the people leaving comments as having lovely blogs too. But the overwhelmed, stressed feeling Claire reports has bothered me for a very long time. There's pressure to read all the "great" blogs. There's pressure to make your own blog great. And if added to that is pressure to be somehow "ambitious" for your blog, which manifests itself in counting statistics and hits (like authors counting Amazon numbers thrice daily), there's something truly repellent and soul-deadening about that. My life's busy, I have a job, write, read and have a demanding family, plus, like Jane Austen, I have "left off being young." I can't also deal with pressure to follow all the blogs, much less spend time turning my own occasional blog into a popular star. However, I had a visit from an author with an extremely starry blog recently, who in no uncertain terms told me the hard truth that if I don't get my blog up to speed, and twitter too, I will be doing the books I write a huge disservice. So it's a real conflict. I'd like to just blog occasionally, when I have something to say, some nice cat pictures or a trip to tell about. That would suit me. I suppose as I get closer to completion of my next book, I'll make the effort to make my blog more "popular." I have no idea why anyone would try to make their blog "popular" unless they have something to sell, like a book. It seems to be seen as a way to make your "name" - but as a stepping stone to what? To being an unpaid book reviewer? But I'm a paid book reviewer in my work, and I work for money, which I need. Doubtless, blogging does further certain kinds of media careers. But to my mind, there's no question that the single best thing about a blog, especially a book blog, is that you make wonderful, like-minded friends. The atmosphere of PRESSURE surrounding all this, however, is simply dreadful, and it's certainly what is keeping me from making more of my own little "Light, Bright, and Sparkling." Favorite woodland animal? Bear, of course. I'm sure I sound like one - and we really do have them in our California woods!

  28. I'm late to reading this post - but Simon - don't worry - we love you just the way you are!

    In answer to your questions: yes, yes, yes, finding the wonderful blogging community, and an otter (who lives in a woodland stream).

  29. Im commenting on this late but its an interesting topic, Im a newby to the world of blogging and have only been going a month.

    I have always for many years been a big reader of blogs so when I started I knew exactly how I wanted it to look/read etc. Im surprised at the responce so far (its been very good) because me and my husband tend to only review books which are old or a few years old, we have reviewed any brand new books at all as we are only doing our own thing.

    We did get contacted by a few people/authors with books asking if we could review books which lead to a big discussion between me and my husband as to why exactly we started the blog. In the end we decided not to take the books as we like doing our own thing for the moment and we started the blog to review our own stuff and to be more in contact with other bloggers. Maybe in the future this will change and we will take them.

  30. Although Simon probably does not recognize my named, I'm on the Doves list, am a regular enough blogger and sometimes read his blog.

    Here are a few thoughts in response to today's blog and the comments thereon. I'd say blog if it comes natural to you: if you feel satisfaction and enjoyment in doing it, and there is nothing in your life to prevent you, take advantage of this experience as a kind of gift. Ditto for any response which you get on your blog.

    Very little in life comes unqualified: most experiences have their downside and troubles. Why should blogging be any different? We say we love X, but often feel very ambivalent feelings about X. It's rather than on the whole we like X (on the whole covers a lot of ambivalence). Some of the things that cause ambivalence can be that others think to take advantage of this for their own interests. What else is new? If you withstand that elsewhere, why not here -- if on balance, you do enjoy it.

    Similarly, if there are people who have stereotyped ideas about the kind of person who blogs, whether this has any reality, why let this bother you more than other stereotypes you come across. I suggest there is a false presentation in lots of societies about the nature of social experience which can led to very narrow notions about what this is and an overvaluing of certain kinds. Again, remember what the Gods protested against in vain.


  31. Your experiences with blogging - do you go through peaks and troughs of enthusiasm?
    I probably fall into the category of hesitant new blogger. I started a book blog a little over a month ago, and I'm struggling to find my voice and cast my net regarding subject matter. In just the past few weeks I've peaked *and* troughed. I have already decided that figuring out Technorati authority/rankings and tracking visits through sitemeter will probably do me more harm than good. I primarily started the blog for personal reasons: I had stagnated on a reading goal, and I decided a more public forum would keep me active. Also, now that I read with the intention of writing, I have become a more active participant in the literature. I think that's been my favorite part so far.

    Oh, and I like bunny rabbits!

  32. I'm brand new to the blogging world. After completing my degrees in English Literature, I wanted to keep my brain fresh and alive. The main thrill is being able to read exactly what I want; no required reading! Yes, it takes a significant amount of effort to produce quality and fun posts, which attract more readers, but I will not lose sleep over low stats. It is what it is. All my friends are in the English Department so this is simply a way of passing on some suggestions.

    What an eloquent post,
    Lydia @ The Literary Lollipop

  33. This is a fascinating post, as much for the comments and discussion as the post itself.

    I'm not really new to the blogging world in that I've had a Livejournal account since 2004. But I took up book blogging because I was laid off, had a lot of time on my hands, and found I missed talking and thinking about books (and frankly, found the local book clubs an exercise in frustration). My book blog is still a bit of an odd bird, familiar as I am to talking to friends, students, or publishers, but not to a faceless audience. I suspect someday I'll figure out what it wants to be. In the meantime, I write when I want to and when I have something to say, and enjoy finding blogs like yours, and Booksnob, and other people who read critically and write persuasively. (Sometimes too Amazon wishlist is getting out of control because of you lot!)

    And my favorite woodland creature is probably the owl.


I've now moved to, and all my old posts are over there too - do come and say hello :)

I probably won't see your comment here, I'm afraid, but all my archive posts can also be found at